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How can I make a computer “Crash Proof?”

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How can I make a computer crash proof?

Ultimately, you can’t. You can make your system resilient, and you can prepare for the eventual crashes, but there’s simply no such thing as “crash-proof”.

Let’s talk about why that is.

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Bugs

All software has bugs. Period.

Bugs vary in degree and in impact, but all software has bugs.

That doesn’t mean we should give up trying to find them, far from it. Software developers and companies need to continue to do everything appropriate to ensure that there are as few bugs or mistakes as possible, so that those that remain will be of very low impact.

But there will always be bugs, and unfortunately, some of those bugs may be the kind that cause your computer to crash.

Unimaginable complexity

Now, one of the reasons that bugs are inevitable is what I call the “unimaginable complexity” of today’s systems.


We want the computer we purchased today to be capable of doing things we haven’t even thought of yet in just a couple of years.
Here’s a knee-jerk reaction I hear all the time: “Well, if they’d just stop adding features and making them so complex, we wouldn’t have so many bugs to worry about”.

The problem is that we as consumers demand complexity. We want our computers to be general-purpose devices. We want them to do more and more, and faster, and more… You get the idea.

We want the computer we purchased today to be capable of doing things we haven’t even thought of yet in just a couple of years.

The proof of this concept is in where people spend their money: what people buy, and what people use. Consumers want more and more features, more and more functionality. That simply implies more and more underlying complexity.

Bug! Hardware faults

So far I’ve been talking about software. The same is also true of hardware to some degree, but ultimately it’s important to realize that any and all hardware can wear out or break, and that can often in result in a crash. Some components wear out more quickly than others, but all components can eventually wear out or have a problem of some sort.

Now, you might argue that computers should be designed to be more resilient to failures.

To this argument I say exactly two things. One: you really have no idea how resilient your system already is. There is so much that can and actually does go wrong that you’re blissfully unaware of, because the system is already compensating or already dealing with the issue. Two: Building resilience and failure tolerance adds… you guessed it, more complexity.

Be prepared

So, rather than looking for crash-proof, you need to do what you can to be crash-resilient and crash-prepared. Look for quality of course in the computers and the components and software you purchase. Keep your software up to date and of course (you know this is coming) back up.

Be prepared for the day, not if but when your computer crashes, because I guarantee it: sooner or later, your computer will crash.

Posted: December 6, 2013 in: Editorials
Shortlink: https://askleo.com/12329
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I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.

2 comments on “How can I make a computer “Crash Proof?””

  1. Wikipedia estimates that there are of somewhere around 45 million lines of code in Windows XP. I don’t know about Windows 7 or 8 but probably at least as many, most likely more.

    Imaging trying to find a mistake somewhere in those 45 million lines of program code. –It would be like trying to find all the typos and punctuation mistakes in every newspaper in the country! –No matter how many you find, there will always be more!

    Reply
  2. Come on, we know you want to say it, “leave it in the box!” Stuff happens…I’ve been using desk top type computers since they were the size of a suitcase. Never had a problem until that one day, sitting at my workstation sipping a cup of coffee, reading for the umpteenth time a manual I had written. A jet flew by and at some point a sonic boom ensued. Where did the coffee end up? Rule 1, don’t do it and it won’t happen.

    Reply

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